Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights –are not simply
words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty
and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek
freedom, fairness, equality and dignity in the world.
I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by
these documents. My father came to our shores in search of the promise
that they offered. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn of their
truth when I lived as a child in a foreign land. My own American
journey was paved by generations of citizens who gave meaning to those
simple words – “to form a more perfect union.” I have studied the
Constitution as a student; I have taught it as a teacher; I have been
bound by it as a lawyer and legislator. I took an oath to preserve,
protect and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a
citizen, I know that we must never – ever – turn our back on its
enduring principles for expedience sake.
I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our
most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because
it strengthens our country and keeps us safe. Time and again, our
values have been our best national security asset – in war and peace;
in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.
Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of
America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an
empire to the strongest nation in the world.
It is the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in
battle, knowing they’d receive better treatment from America’s armed
forces than from their own government.
It is the reason why America has benefited from strong alliances
that amplified our power, and drawn a sharp and moral contrast with our
It is the reason why we’ve been able to overpower the iron fist of
fascism, outlast the iron curtain of communism, and enlist free nations
and free people everywhere in common cause and common effort.
From Europe to the Pacific, we have been a nation that has shut down
torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law. That is who
we are. And where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and
destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and institutions
are more resilient than a hateful ideology.